Higher Education and Civic Engagement

Publication type

Conference Paper


British Sociological Association Conference


Publication date

April 8, 2001


This paper focuses on the relationship between social engagement, particularly civic engagement, and education. It is well known that more highly educated people are more likely to engage in voluntary work in formalised settings. It has been difficult to disentangle the effect of higher education from that of family origin and occupational socialisation. This paper examines the effects of tertiary education on the social and civic engagement of young people, using the British Household Panel Study. The social and civic activity of young people is observed in their late teens, before entering the labour market or tertiary education, and compared with that of the same young people in their early 20s, after completing tertiary education courses or gaining labour market experience. The BHPS yielded a sample of about 570 young people with the required data over the time period. It was found that the social and civic engagement of young people who would enter higher education was higher in their late teens than that of their peers who did not enter. However, higher education had a small additional effect on civic engagement, for both young and mature students. The children of professionals were the social grouping most likely to be involved in civic activities. The relationship of higher education, professional occupations and family socialisation is discussed.

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